Friday, April 24, 2009

Tonya Harding On Oprah Yesterday

Tonya Harding exemplifies my frustration with people who think that being a victim absolves you of all responsibility or accountability.

Tonya still claims she had no prior knowledge of her husband Jeff Gillooly's plot to injure her rival Nancy Kerrigan to take her out of the competition for the 1994 Winter Olympics. And then when she did find out, supposedly she feared for her life because of Jeff's abuse.

Even if I believed either of her stories, which I don't, I would be dismayed by her lack of any sadness or remorse on account of what happened to Nancy because of her. When Oprah asked her "Well how did you feel about what happened to Nancy" she talked about how hard SHE had worked to get where she was in skating. Because, you know, it's all about her. Asked what she would say to Nancy today...she talked about how SHE, TONYA was the first woman to land a triple axel and "no one can take that away from me" because, you know, it's all about HER.

I believe it is true that Tonya had an abusive mother and was not raised in a stable situation. Lots of people come out of horrendous situations. But in the skating world she had people who protected her from her mother and took her under their wing and gave her an opportunity to rise above her circumstances. Not a word from her about all the people who helped and supported her. No she just blamed the skating world for choosing Nancy because she was "the good girl". The idea that maybe when she stopped training and pretty much lost her triple axel by 1993 and Nancy actually skated better than her never occurred to her. She claimed that skating officials told her she had to stay with Jeff Gillooly so she would look like she was in a happy marraige if she wanted to get on the Olympic team. That is such bullshit. To get on the Olympic team, you skate well. The skating association wants people who will skate well at the Olympics on the team, they don't care if you are happily married or not.

I guess what just burns me about Tonya is that she has a choice. All around the world there are women who are REAL victims who have few options. There were options for Tonya. She threw them away and still chooses to identify herself as a victim. Then she gets all this attention, people see the manipulation and narcissism and then look with suspicion on other women who may be real victims.

It was interesting to contrast Tonya with Oprah's other guest --Lorena Bobbitt, the woman who cut off her husband's um, offending member. She too claims to be a victim of abuse. Her story rings truer. It convinced a jury.

Lorena now talks of learning her lesson and how she now helps other women get out of abusive situations. Tonya just talks about how she landed the first triple axel.

Lorena has moved on, she's married and has a child. Tonya has been in and out of the news with various run ins with the law. It's never been her fault. She has made a life out of being a victim.

There seems to be a theological message in all of this. Lorena has owned her role in her own "victimhood" and moved on by helping others. She has put the past behind her and is living a new life. Tonya never owned any of her responsibility for the decisions she made that set the events in motion led to her disgrace. She cannot seem to let go of the few years she was in the limelight and one of the greatest skaters. She is still seeking the limelight. She is still wrapped up in herself and is still miserable.


  1. Can a person accept grace if they don't take responsibility?

    Sheesh, I'm glad I don't watch Oprah, but I enjoyed your take on this.

  2. How can you accept grace if you can't admit you need it?